Volunteer of the Month for December 2016-Socket

Socket employees

For more than eight years Socket, a Missouri phone and internet provider has been a corporate leader in local community service projects. Through the Adopt-A-Spot Litter Program, Socket employees have donated hundreds of hours to cleaning up Clark Lane from Paris Road to Highway 63. Their adopted area contains significant litter, is a narrow road with no shoulder and high-volume traffic. Every quarter without fail, they schedule their clean-up with the City of Columbia with up to 20 individuals donating 20 to 45 hours of service. Their last clean-up netted eighty-nine bags of litter!

Other recent Socket community projects include sponsoring the 2016 Countdown to Kickoff fundraiser, which benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri, and participating in the 2016 Rootin’ Tootin’ Chili Cookoff, which raised funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. Their aggressive campaigns to reduce litter and improve the lives of children demonstrate commitment to our community. Thank you, Socket!

To learn more about volunteering with the City of Columbia, visit our website, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or email volunteer@CoMo.gov.

Written by volunteer Elizabeth Miller.

Volunteer of the Month for November 2016-The Mission Continues

Mission Continues

The City of Columbia believes in celebrating the groundbreaking work of our volunteers – especially our veterans and their service organizations. One organization, The Mission Continues, stands out. The Mission Continues, which is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization, was founded to empower veterans and community organizations to work together for sustainable and transformational community change across the United States. Since its founding in 2007, more than 1,700 veteran fellows have done volunteer work in more than 49 states. The Mission Continues has also had a noticeable impact in Columbia, Missouri.

Since 2012, The Mission Continues and its local affiliate the Columbia 1st Service Platoon have worked with the City of Columbia and local organizations on numerous service projects. Results to date include restoring Nifong Park, working with veterans at the Truman VA Hospital, improving the Nora Stewart Early Learning Center and more.

As the mission continues for our veterans, whose help we value greatly, we are reminded of the importance of citizen engagement. To all of you that make Columbia better – thank you.

To learn more about volunteering with the City of Columbia, visit our website, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or email volunteer@como.gov.

Written by volunteer Elizabeth Miller

Volunteer of the Month for October 2016-Randi Webster

Randi Webster

Randi Webster became a part of the City Wide Flag Line in November 2015 as a volunteer coach. The City Wide Flag Line is one of the many programs offered to youth ages 7-18 through the Community Recreation program at the Armory Sports Center.  When asked what she enjoys about her time as a flag line coach, Randi said “they [the kids] are all so dedicated; the look of pride when they accomplish a tricky move makes all of our hard work worth it.”  Randi also said that what she loves the most about being a coach is being able to share something she loved as a kid with her daughter and other children.

Randi’s passion and dedication has not gone unnoticed by others, specifically Parks and Recreation staff.  Mary Dewey, a Community Recreation Leader, said Randi has been the perfect match for this program. As a former member of her high school Color Guard, Randi knew what she was doing when it came to teaching the kids a flag routine.   Randi works with the flag line group every week preparing them for performances that take place at many community events.  

Thank you, Randi, for providing a unique opportunity for our youth and your commitment to bettering the community!

To learn more about volunteering with the City of Columbia, visit our website or contact us at (573) 874-7499 or volunteer@CoMo.gov.

Volunteer of the Month for September 2016-Aaron Hill

Aaron Hill

Since moving to Columbia three years ago, Aaron Hill has been a familiar face with Youth in Action. Youth in Action is a summer volunteer program for youth ages 12-15. From May to July, volunteers like Hill spend their time at various service projects around Columbia. When asked why he wanted to join Youth in Action, Hill said “I really wanted to learn more about the community, and I always enjoy helping people.”

This past summer Hill spent over 40 hours volunteering for various projects including: packing food at the Food Bank, assisting at the Missouri Symphony Society, cleaning up our streams and parks and so much more. When Hill was not volunteering for Youth in Action, he spent his time helping others at his church. While this is Hill’s last year with Youth in Action, he does plan to continue to serve his community because he believes it is important to give back.

Volunteers like Hill are an inspiration to us all and help make Columbia such a great place to live.

To learn more about volunteering with the City, visit our website or contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@CoMo.gov.



Volunteer of the Month for August 2016-Sonia Antequera

Sonia Antequera

The City of Columbia believes in celebrating volunteers. There are few volunteers like Sonia Antequera. A retired physical education teacher from La Paz, Bolivia, Antequera’s contributions to the City of Columbia’s volunteer programs are exceptional. When she is not assisting in the office, she can be found teaching children at the annual Earth Day celebration, sorting paint for hazardous waste disposal and numerous other tasks. Antequera is passionate about volunteering and feels that “being a volunteer is a great opportunity [for me to give] back to the town what it is giving to me.”

Antequera leaps with boundless energy from one project to another, giving every task her full attention, effort and passion. Her Spanish language skills and unique ability to communicate with everyone have also made her an extraordinary asset. And, she has only been in Columbia for five months visiting her son. Her return to Bolivia this fall will leave Columbia with a hole. She will be sorely missed. However, it’s clear that La Paz will benefit greatly upon her return. For the past 20 years, Antequera has coached and refereed wheelchair basketball for disabled men and women.

To learn more about volunteering with the City of Columbia, visit our website at CoMo.gov, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or email volunteer@CoMo.gov.

Written by volunteer Elizabeth Miller.

Volunteer of the Month for July 2016-John Scalise

John Scalise

As a Rehabilitation Services Manager at Job Point, John Scalise uses his background as a volunteer to train City employees on the topics of emotion management and stress and depression management.  “I truly believe that if people knew more about mental health the stigma would decrease,” John says. “There have been amazing advancements in behavioral health and understanding how to overcome the life challenges us humans face.”  

Since last winter, John has been offering training sessions that provide a series of topics that assist people in helping others. Even with a busy schedule, John has volunteered his time to help educate City employees ways of managing difficult situations to better serve Columbia.

As a direct care provider for individuals with life challenges, John and his wife are “natural born helpers” that seek to make a difference by helping others.“I think it’s so important for people to learn about the myths about mental health,” John says. “My hope is that people will stop seeing mental illness as a health problem that is no different than physical health.  If we can increase the understanding and decrease the stigma I believe people will be able to address concerns better.”  

To learn more about volunteering with the City, visit our website or contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov

                -Written by Volunteer Abby Holman

Volunteer of the Month for June 2016-Gary and Linda Shilito

Picture of Gary and Linda Shilito

After retiring to Columbia in 2010, Gary and Linda Shillito have done anything but slow down. The couple volunteers at a plethora of organizations, including: Tree Keepers, Adopt-a-Spot, the Missouri Honeysuckle Removal Project, Room at The Inn, Saturdays for Seniors, Loaves and Fishes, The Wardrobe, and the Women’s Auxiliary of the Salvation Army.  “We feel it is a privilege to give back to our adopted community through volunteer activities,” the couple says.  

Volunteering in a wide range of organizations gives the Shillito’s personal satisfaction, a way to build community connections and fulfilling community needs.  In their spare time, the couple actively maintains a home garden with a waterfall, koi pond, stream bed and rain gardens but is always ready to drop the tools and spend time with their six grandchildren. 

To learn more about volunteering with the City, visit our website or contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov

  -Written by volunteer Abby Holman

Volunteer of the Month for May 2016-The Cooper Family

C. Cooper Family

After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., Chip Cooper and his family decided to “counteract the ugliness in the world by adding some beauty to it.” From there, the family donated 750 spring bulbs and planted them along the MKT Trail for travelers to enjoy. Chip, a long time volunteer of the Parks and Recreation Department has helped coordinate and fundraise to make projects such as planting flowers along the trail a possibility. “We believe that it’s important for everyone to contribute a little bit to the community so that we’ll all enjoy a wonderful place to live (as we do in Columbia),” Chip said. “We intend to keep planting flowering plants together along the MKT and other trails for many years to come. It’s a lot of fun and we can enjoy the fruits of our labor during the annual bloom.” Chip has been volunteering for over three decades and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. In his spare time he enjoys bike riding and avidly follows Mizzou softball and women’s basketball. To learn more about volunteering with the City, visit our website or contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov.  Written by volunteer Abby Holman

Volunteer of the Month for April 2016-Kevin Bussen

Kevin Bussen

Volunteers care for nearly 100 Adopt-A-Spot Beautification beds found around the City in medians, roundabout and intersections.  Kevin Bussen is one of the dedicated volunteers who help create and maintain these beds for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Kevin has worked on three beds and most recently moved the bed for his company, Turtle on the Green, from I-70 Drive SW to Forum Boulevard.  Kevin went to the effort of moving many plants from one bed to the other due to bridge construction on I-70.  He has also lent a hand to other adopters and has been eager to work with student groups on landscaping projects.

Kevin says, “I enjoy helping with the landscape beds and always like go give suggestions or be creative with an open slate or unplanted landscape bed. It is always good to be creative with my surroundings. I call it Living Art. There is so many Adopt a Spots in Columbia It is nice to have these available.”

Kevin’s landscaping work keeps him busy during the growing season.  During the winter months he enjoys carpentry, photography, and collect art work. He is always looking for a unique art piece.

To learn more about volunteering with the City, visit our website or contact Volunteer Programs at 874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov.

Volunteer of the Month for March 2016-Mike Trial

Mike Trial

Since May of 2014, Mike Trial has provided assistance with prairie management at Bonnie View Park, where his impact has been strongly felt. Along with managing the land, Mike has designed educational signage for park patrons to understand the value and significance of native plants and why it’s important to promote their use in our community. “His impact has been most strongly felt at Bonnie View Park,” Supervisor Brett O’Brien said. “His efforts has helped us encourage native plants and minimized invasive exotic species in the prairie area”. Challenges such as weather, invasive plans and site conditions didn’t stop Mike from persevering to continue the preservation of Bonnie View Prairie Loop Trail. His personable and friendly nature has helped recruit and bring volunteers together to help the Parks and Recreation Department complete projects like this. To learn more about how you can volunteer with the City of Columbia, visit the City’s website or contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874- 7499 or volunteer@como.gov. Written by volunteer Abby Holman

Volunteer of the Month for February 2016- Val DeBrunce

Val DeBrunce

The City’s Volunteer Programs give opportunities to Columbians to build community and connect citizens to service opportunities. Val DeBrunce has volunteered as a Recycling Ambassador for over a year and was a charter volunteer for the program. He has reached out to the Downtown Community Improvement District to educate businesses and their employees about recycling practices. Val has visited over 80 businesses in an effort to increase material diverted from the landfill, even following up with each to ensure everyone in the line of communication knows what to do. He will soon begin outreach to residential property owners, managers and residents to continue his impact. A retired salesman, Val’s knack for building relationships with others has made it easy for people to jump on board with recycling efforts, investing time and energy to the greater good of the community. Val also serves on the Citizens Police Review Board. “Recycling is the right thing to do,” Val said. “Recycling Ambassadors are responsible for communicating City goals to both businesses and residents. It gets back to the awareness issue. There is a very high percentage of people that don’t know the changes the City is undertaking in order to make recycling easier.” To learn more about volunteering with the City of Columbia, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov. Written by volunteer Abby Holman

Volunteer of the Month for January 2016-CHiRP

Columbia Habitat Improvement and Restoration Project Volunteers

In 2015, two volunteers approached City staff with an idea. They wanted to develop a program that would allow volunteers, including University of Missouri faculty and staff, to remove invasive plants from the MKT Trail corridor. From that idea CHiRP—Columbia Habitat Improvement and Restoration Project was born. Jan Weaver and Brenda Peculis founded CHiRP and were joined by other community volunteers. Cheryl Hardy and Gary Fennewald are two key volunteers in the program. Volunteers shared more than 285 hours of hard work in the City’s 2015 fiscal year removing honeysuckle and other invasive plants along the trail between Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard. By improving the plant community, CHiRP volunteers hope to improve the habitat for birds and other animals. MU Director of Landscape Services Pete Millier appreciates the work of CHiRP. “We hope that this is the first of many collaborations to get a handle on the bush honeysuckle and other invaders along the trails,” he said. The City of Columbia thanks and recognizes Jan, Brenda, Cheryl, Gary and the many other volunteers who have worked to improve the trail corridor through their work with CHiRP. To learn more about volunteering with CHiRP and in other City opportunities, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov.